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Exploring Life & Business with Ellen Wahl of Tai Chi With Ellen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ellen Wahl. 

Hi Ellen, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
In 1986 I relocated back to Minnesota, specifically Minneapolis, and started my search for a martial arts practice. I wasn’t sure what I was seeking but I felt that it would be a martial art with a spiritual connection. I visited external practices such as karate, taekwondo, etc. Nothing resonated with me until I discovered the flowing and relaxing movements of tai chi. To my surprise, tai chi was part of my Asian heritage. I knew very little about my Taiwanese culture since I was adopted into a Minnesota family. Connecting with tai chi was the beginning of my journey towards personal healing and an acknowledgment of my Asian identity. I met a tai chi teacher and friends who shared with me their appreciation of the Asian culture. 

I was able to journey back to my birth family and see how tai chi was infused into the culture. I saw older people practicing tai chi in the parks of Taipei, Taiwan. My Asian family thought I was too young to practice tai chi. I told them that American life was stressful and that is why young people in America do tai chi. Tai chi has been a pivotal part of my life. I stayed at my teacher’s tai chi and qigong center for over 18 years. During 13 of those 18 years, I taught advanced students tai chi. Teaching was my devotion. It was a gift to be able to find my place at this center. After I left my tai chi teacher’s center, I taught on my own for 5 years at a recreation center overlooking a beautiful lake. 

During the many years of teaching tai chi, I made my real living as an art teacher. I loved the youthful energy of children and I loved sharing the joy of artistic expression with my art students. As the years passed, I came to the realization that the field of teaching was changing. My art teaching career demanded more than what I was willing to give. I found myself depleted and needing to find joy again in my life. 

In January 2020 I started my own tai chi and qigong business, Tai Chi With Ellen LLC. I had gathered a few students and was learning how to start my new business. Then the pandemic occurred. One of my students asked me if I was going to teach on Zoom. He said he saw other teachers doing Zoom and would prefer to take a Zoom class with me. Two months into the pandemic was my first experience with Zoom classes. 

I have devoted a lot of energy and time developing my website, videos, offering a free Winter Solstice Tai Chi event online, teaching summer tai chi and qigong classes in the park, creating ads, and connecting with social media. During this winter I plan to teach private and couple lessons in-person and on Zoom. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Whenever a person ventures out to try something new, there are a lot of unknowns along the way. First, I had to face my own self-doubts, even though I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else! That part was very clear. The part that I struggled with was whether I was “good enough” to make a living teaching tai chi and qigong. When I was teaching for the joy of it, and not as a livelihood, I did not have this self-doubt. 

Another challenge is that here in the U.S. tai chi is not a cultural practice like it is in Asia. People in America are not as familiar with it as they are with other activities like biking, running, working out, etc. I would like to change this.  My hope is to show people that tai chi can become a daily practice with great benefits at any age, but especially as people age. 

Looking back I would say that starting my business has been an exciting venture with a huge learning curve, a need to trust my intuition, and a lot of focused energy. I found myself having to adapt to ever changing circumstances.  There have been calm moments with a smooth flow, but like with any birthing process, there are excruciating moments too.  Also my business is generated mainly through word of mouth, which takes time and patience.

I have discovered the practice of letting go of expectations and opening myself to unexpected gifts that come my way.  One unexpected gift was having this opportunity to share my story with more people on your website.  

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Tai Chi With Ellen LLC springs from a desire to share my love of tai chi and qigong as a means for centering, mindfulness, stress reduction, achieving a sense of well-being and pure joy.  I have benefited in these ways and would like to offer others the chance to also do so. From this perspective, I see my business as a service for humanity rather than as a way to generate great profit. 

I have spent most of my life focused on health and wellness.   I have benefited from numerous healing modalities in addition to my practice of tai chi and qigong.  For me there is no one magical approach to complete health and well-being.  It is an ongoing process of listening to your own body and allowing your aches and pains to guide you to what you need.  Be true to yourself.   Self-love leads to self-care.

​Why would I choose tai chi and qigong if there are other modalities of healing?  I can rely on tai chi and qigong for self-care anywhere, at any time and without any equipment.  I only need to make an appointment with myself.  I am able to find relief from my discomfort.  For me, it’s like returning from a pristine beach feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. 

Since the start of my business I have offered small group classes in-person and online. With the ongoing concern over the virus variants, I have decided to focus on private and couple lessons. I hope to resume group classes in the future. 

I offer instruction for individuals in a nurturing learning space or on Zoom. My focus is on creating the best learning approach for an individual! Each student will receive clear directions tailored to one’s specific situation. Through regular practice a student will be able to make his or her tai chi and qigong postures a part of one’s own self-care routine. My service is unique because I genuinely focus on each student’s personal progress.

I am open to bringing tai chi more into the community by presenting at public events, conducting workshops, teaching at senior residences and working with sports-specific groups as I did a bit at the start of 2020. My main focus is still on teaching individuals and small groups. 

What makes you happy?
What makes me happy is to slow down my life so that I can enjoy the quietude of the moment. I am discovering that when I simplify my day and allow space for the day to flow, I am less distracted and depleted at the end of the day. I still accomplish what I wish, but maybe not always on the exact day I thought. 

I also find great enjoyment when I am in nature and with animals, especially my cats. I love walking in the woods as well as along an ocean beach. Even sitting on the grass in my backyard with the sun warming me and the breeze blowing can rejuvenate me. My tai chi classes are usually held in the midst of a pine grove overlooking a lake. This grove is also my personal practice space. 

Tai chi and qigong were inspired by observing the patterns and rhythms of nature, which includes the behaviors of animals. The names of the postures and movements reflect this. For example, some postural names are “Wind Blows through Lotus”, “Wave Hands like Clouds”, “Wild Horse Flings Its Mane”, “Old Turtle Rises from the Deep” and many more. 

For me, happiness is experiencing inner peace and good health.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Natasha Poppe
Cara Kemnitz
John Kerschbaum
Jay Perlman
Phoebe Photography

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1 Comment

  1. Natalie Kochen

    October 17, 2021 at 7:25 pm

    I’m so happy for you Ellen!! Such a beautiful story from a beautiful person! Your students are so blessed to have you!!

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